Healthy diets are rich in antioxidants like amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C, but exactly how beneficial these micronutrients are for cardiovascular health has long been controversial. Now a new meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology provides some clarity.
Researchers systematically reviewed a total of 884 studies available to date on micronutrients taken as dietary supplements and analyzed their data. They identified several micronutrients that do reduce cardiovascular risk—as well as others that offer no benefit or even have a negative effect. More than 883,000 patients were involved in the combined studies.
“For the first time, we developed a comprehensive, evidence-based integrative map to characterize and quantify micronutrient supplements’ potential effects on cardiometabolic outcomes,” said Simin Liu, MD, MS, MPH, ScD, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Brown University and a principal investigator for the study. “Our study highlights the importance of micronutrient diversity and the balance of health benefits and risks.”
The findings could be used as the basis of future clinical trials to study specific combinations of micronutrients and their impact on cardiovascular health, he said.
Antioxidant supplementation has long been thought to play a role in heart health. That’s because these nutrients work to reduce oxidative stress, a known contributor to many cardiovascular diseases. Heart-healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) feature foods that are naturally rich in antioxidants. However, results from studies of antioxidant supplements have been inconsistent—one reason why this approach hasn’t yet been widely adopted in preventative cardiology.
“Research on micronutrient supplementation has mainly focused on the health effects of a single or a few vitamins and minerals,” Liu said. “We decided to take a comprehensive and systematic approach to evaluate all the publicly available and accessible studies reporting all micronutrients, including phytochemicals and antioxidant supplements and their effects on cardiovascular risk factors as well as multiple cardiovascular diseases.”
The researchers looked at randomized, controlled intervention trials evaluating 27 different types of antioxidant supplements. They found strong evidence that several offered cardiovascular benefit. These included omega-3 fatty acid, which decreased mortality from cardiovascular disease; folic acid, which lowered stroke risk; and coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant sometimes marketed as CoQ10, which decreased all-cause mortality. Omega-6 fatty acid, L-arginine, L-citrulline, Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, alpha-lipoic acid, melatonin, catechin, curcumin, flavanol, genistein and quercetin also showed evidence of reducing cardiovascular risk.
Not all supplements were beneficial. Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and selenium showed no effect on long-term cardiovascular disease outcomes or type-2 diabetes risk. And beta carotene supplements increased all-cause mortality.
According to the researchers, the findings point to the need for more personalized, precision-based dietary interventions that involve specific combinations of beneficial supplements. Further study is needed, including large, high-quality interventional trials to investigate the long-term effects of certain micronutrients on health.
“Identifying the optimal mixture of micronutrients is important, as not all are beneficial, and some may even have harmful effects,” Liu said.
The American College of Cardiology envisions a world where innovation and knowledge optimize cardiovascular care and outcomes. As the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team, the mission of the College and its more than 56,000 members is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The ACC bestows credentials upon cardiovascular professionals who meet stringent qualifications and leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The College also provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research through its world-renowned JACC Journals, operates national registries to measure and improve care, and offers cardiovascular accreditation to hospitals and institutions. For more, visit acc.org.
The ACC’s family of JACC Journals rank among the top cardiovascular journals in the world for scientific impact. The flagship journal, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) — and family of specialty journals consisting of JACC: Advances, JACC: Asia, JACC: Basic to Translational Science, JACC: CardioOncology, JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions, JACC: Case Reports, JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology and JACC: Heart Failure — pride themselves on publishing the top peer-reviewed research on all aspects of cardiovascular disease. Learn more at JACC.org.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Micronutrient Supplementation to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk
Article Publication Date
Simin Liu reports consulting payments and honoraria or promises of the same for scientific presentations or reviews at numerous venues, including but not limited to Barilla, Johns Hopkins University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Harvard University, University of Buffalo, Guangdong General Hospital, Fuwai Hospital, and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the National Institutes of Health. He is also a member of the Data Safety and Monitoring Board for several trials, including the SELECT Trial -Semaglutide Effects on Cardiovascular Outcomes in People with Overweight or Obesity sponsored by Novo Nordisk and a trial of pulmonary hypertension in diabetes patients sponsored by at Massachusetts General Hospital. Simin Liu received royalties from UpToDate and an honorarium from the American Society for Nutrition for his duties as Associate Editor. Jeffrey I. Mechanick received honoraria from Abbott Nutrition for lectures and serves on the Advisory Boards of Aveta.Life, L-Nutra, and Twin Health. The remaining authors have nothing to disclose.